Insurance Fraud

On Monday night, we went to the Opera House for a cocktail reception and operatic concert hosted by Sigal, Albania’s largest insurance company, in honor of its 10-year anniversary. The guest list included diplomats and business leaders; in fact, we got the Ambassador’s tickets, and so were seated in the “executive loggia”, which I have to assume was where Enver Hoxha and his ministers sat during Communist times. This was not a little strange.

For the first half hour after we were seated, we were treated to speeches and videos celebrating Sigal’s history and accomplishments. Certainly, they had the right to feel proud, but after about 15 minutes it began to feel overdone; fortunately, the presenter put away the microphone, the orchestra began to play, and then the singer took the stage. The program included Mozart, Puccini, and other works not listed in the program, but that was alright – the performance was very good – but half an hour into the music, the concert halted for another half hour of speeches and videos celebrating Sigal’s history and accomplishments. We then had 15 more minutes of music and it was over. (There might have been encores, but we were fed up at that point.) For those of you keeping score, that’s 1 hour of speeches, 45 minutes of music. As Abby put it, “Why blow all the goodwill that you created in offering the concert by wasting everyone’s night with speeches?”

Back from Florida

The title being as it is because I was in Florida during the last week of January for a photography course at the Palm Beach Photographic Centre. I attended about 20 seminars, workshops and photo shoots led by leading photographers and photo editors, learning everything from the (very) basics of the photojournalism business to lighting techniques to Photoshop. It was fascinating and exhausting, and I learned how much I have to learn. Just the nuts and bolts of digital printing left my mind boggled.

The photos below are some of the pictures I took during the first photo shoot on Tuesday, in Miami’s Little Havana. We strolled Calle Ocho looking at stores, the domino players’ park, and the cigar factories. We had great opportunities for portrait-taking, but I was also fascinated by the untouristed end of the street that showed a more isolated community than the one we’d gone to see.

One of the things that most impressed me is how photography is now about technology – Photoshop, the right printer, the right scanner. One of the photographer/instructors who most made an impression on me was Ben Willmore, whose work you can see at This isn’t the type of work I’d necessarily do – I’m still a fan of black & white film – but after his demonstration I could see how this fits into the photography lexicon (and I broke down and bought Photoshop). For example, by manipulating color, shadow, detail and contrast, you can direct the eye toward what you want people to see – in this case, toward the hand and the standing dominos, and away from the watch or the dominos in the corner. (At least, that’s what I hope I’m doing.)